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Chapter 2: Jeannie Donovan

A writer once described the first floor of Yale Law School as a "gothic bowling alley."  To Jeannie Donovan, it was an apt description.  The long central corridor was lined with arched doorways, and gargoyles representing police, judges, and criminals overlooked the main doors.  Whoever built the place had a keen sense of humor.  She loved the irony of entering this hallowed house of learning by passing under the stony gaze of carved prostitutes and thieves.  She reached the main staircase and took the stairs two at a time, passing her favorite window in the building, a bench that overlooked the outside quad.  In the spring, her study group would sit outside on the grass.  In February?  Not so much.  Not unless you wanted to sit in the slushy snow.  She reached the third floor, passed her bag over the security bar, and entered the library.

"Jeannie, over here." 

She spotted her study group and headed for their table.  She dropped her bag and fell into a chair.  "Just give me a second."  Her ponytail had come loose from the snow, so she removed the band, pulled her damp blond hair back, and reaffixed the band.  Then she pulled out her notepad and looked at her classmates.  "Okay.  All set."

They began discussing how they were going to divvy up their outline for the Conflicts of Law final.  Jeannie didn't care which section she got; she would do fine with anything.  Scott and Jason, at the other end of the table, were fighting over who would do the outline on common law principles.  They both wanted that section because it was supposedly the hardest in the course, and doing the outline would give them an advantage on the final.  It didn't matter.  Jeannie would still beat the pants off the both of them on the exam.

Suddenly, the sound of Jay-Z came wafting from her bag.  Damn, she had been in such a hurry, she had forgotten to turn off her cell phone.  She fished into her bag and pulled out her iPhone.  Her mom's number flashed on the screen.

"That's weird," she said aloud.  It was 6 p.m. here, but just the middle of the afternoon in California.  Mom should be on the air right now, giving advice to the legion of drivers fighting rush hour traffic.  Jeannie grew uneasy.  "Sorry, guys, I think I need to take this.  I'll take whatever section you give me."  She tapped the screen and held the phone to her ear.  "Mom, hang on.  I'm just getting out of the library."

She ignored the disapproving stares of the librarian.  Talking on a cell phone in the library was not a good way to ingratiate yourself with the staff, but she would apologize later.  She had heard horror stories about students who pissed off the librarians.  Rumors abounded about such students -- that their research notes had a bad habit of disappearing, case books wound up mysteriously drenched with coffee, and hard  drives on laptops left in the carrels suddenly crashed, taking with them a semester worth of notes.  But that was for later.  She had reached the exit, passed through the security gate and was now standing outside at the top of the staircase.  Putting the phone back to her ear, she said, "Sorry, Mom.  I was with my study group."

"Oh, honey, I'm sorry."  Kim's voice came through the line.  "I . . . I can call you later if you want."

"No, it's okay," Jeannie responded.  "Is something wrong?  Why aren't you doing your show right now?"

"We're preempted . . . uh . . . for a basketball game, I think."

Jeannie found that hard to believe.  Kimberly Collier was nationally syndicated.  Unless every station in more than 100 different markets was airing the same basketball game at the same time, her mom's show would air.  "Mom," she said, drawing the word out to three syllables.  "Tell me what's going on?"

She heard Kim sigh on the other end.  "Look, Jeannie, I need you to come home this weekend.  I found a flight on Friday from JFK and will have a car waiting for you.  Andrew's coming also."

"Andy?"  Jeannie perked up.  She had not seen Andy since the summer.  Normally, she would have seen him for Christmas at Donovan Manor, but with their father gone, she had gone to Los Angeles, while Andy remained in England with some girl.

A sudden question came to her.  Why?  Why did Mom want Andy and her to fly to LA?

"I know it's an inconvenience," Kim said.  "But I really need to see you.  It's important."

Hesitantly, Jeannie asked, "Does this have something to do with my father?"

"Oh, no, honey.  No, it has nothing to do with Shane."

Jeannie hated that she felt relief at her mom's answer.  For all she cared, her father was dead somewhere, probably on some stupid, meaningless mission.  Andy could idolize the man all he wanted, but Jeannie had given up caring.  Or so she tried to tell herself.

"Jeannie?" Kim's voice was probing.  "Are you still there/"

"Yeah, sorry.  Mom, can't you tell me what's going on?  You know it would be better if you just told me.  Now I'm going to spend all week worrying and I'll be a basket-case by the time I get off the plane in LA."

"Spoken like a true lawyer," Kim said.  "I can't, really.  I need to speak to you and Andrew together.  Here.  Please come home.  It's just a few days.  You can be back at school on Tuesday."

Jeannie heaved a sigh, but knew she could never deny her mother.  Her mom obviously needed her now.  Resigned to her fate, Jeannie finally said, "Okay, I'll be there."